Article By Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

Your guide to buying an EV

Anyone new to the EV market might be confused by the different terminology and the pros and cons of running an electric car. Our guide tells you all you need to know

Like thousands of other motorists, you might be thinking of buying an EV. Lower running costs and improved local air quality are two reasons for making the switch to electric, but there’s also the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to consider.

Anyone new to the EV market might be confused by the different terminology and the pros and cons of running an electric car. How far can you travel on a single charge? What’s the difference between kW and kWh? Is it worth installing a charging unit at home? How much do you need to spend? Is it better to lease or buy an electric car?

You’ll find the answers to all these questions and more on the JustGoEV website, but before you go, stick around for our brief overview of things you need to know when buying an EV.

Are EVs expensive?

Even the cheapest new electric car costs around £20,000, so you’d be forgiven for thinking EVs are expensive.

But ask yourself this question: when was the last time you paid cash for a new car? Around 90 percent of UK drivers use car finance when buying a new car, spending up to a few hundred pounds a month on a new car backed by a manufacturer warranty.

Leasing or financing an EV on a PCP (personal contract purchase) plan might cost slightly more per month, but you should be able to recoup the additional expense via lower running costs.

The Smart Fortwo EQ is one of the cheapest EVs in Britain

EV running costs explained

Here are some reasons why running an EV should be cheaper than a petrol or diesel car.

  • Vehicle Excise Duty (VED): zero emission vehicles are exempt from paying ‘road tax’. This could save you as much as £2,245 in the first year, followed by at least £155 a month from year two.
  • EVs costing less than £35,000 are eligible for the government’s £2,500 Plug-in Car Grant. This is deducted from the list price of the vehicle.
  • A 2008 study found that service and maintenance costs are, on average, 23% lower for electric cars over three years and 60,000 miles. Go Ultra Low claims that the costs could be up to 70% lower over a car’s lifetime. That’s because there are fewer moving parts to service and less to go wrong. Brakes and tyres are likely to be the costliest items associated with running an EV.
  • Charging an EV should be cheaper than refuelling a petrol or diesel car, especially if you install a home charging point. The cost of electricity is around 14p per kWh. Let’s assume an EV will travel 3.5 miles per kWh. That gives a cost per mile of 4p. If fuel costs £1.09 a litre and a car achieves 49.2mpg, that delivers a cost of 9p per mile. It is, however, more expensive to recharge using a public charging point.
  • Running an EV makes even more sense if you’re a company car driver. The BIK (Benefit In Kind) rate for cars with zero emissions is just one percent, which could save a fleet driver thousands of pounds a year. 
  • EVs are exempt from paying the London Congestion Charge and for entering the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Some London boroughs even offer free parking for electric vehicles. Clean Air Zones are expanding to other cities too. 
  • Insurance could be more expensive when running an EV. High repair costs, expensive technology and excellent performance are just three of the reasons why EV cover is so costly. Shop around for the best deals and look out for dedicated EV insurance cover.

Is range anxiety still a thing?

Range anxiety is no longer a concern for the vast majority of EV drivers. There are now around 15,000 charging locations in the UK and you’re never more than 25 miles from a chargepoint on a motorway or A-road in England. The infrastructure is getting stronger by the day, with dedicated EV hubs popping up in strategic locations.

Even the relatively affordable Vauxhall Corsa-e offers 209 miles of range. The Kia e-Niro comes with a seven-year warranty and boasts an official range of 282 miles. A range of 300+ miles will become the norm.

Note these are official figures. The actual range you achieve in the real world will differ.

Make sure you choose the right EV finance package for you before signing up

How much do you need to spend?

If there’s one thing the EV industry is guilty of it’s the impression that bigger and longer is better. Sure, battery size matters if you want to go the distance, but a bigger battery takes longer to charge, is heavier to carry and will be more expensive to buy.

If you spend most of your time in the city, you probably don’t need a large battery and 250 miles of range. Which means something like a Mini Electric, Honda e or Mazda MX-30 could be just the ticket. These are stylish cars that are great to drive and, thanks to their smaller batteries, relatively affordable.

Why not rent an EV with a larger battery if you need to venture further afield? It could work out cheaper in the long run. In fact, renting or arranging a short-term lease on an EV could be an opportunity to ‘try before you buy’.

Whatever, we’d definitely recommend leasing or financing an EV via a PCP deal over any other method of buying. As well as offering the lowest monthly costs, these options will ensure that you’re not tied into a lengthy contract. EV technology is progressing at such a rate that a car you buy today might be outmoded in just a few years.

Know your kW from your kWh

In short, kW is short for kilowatts, while kWh is short for kilowatt-hours. You need to know the difference.

  • Kilowatts (kW) is the measurement of energy used for electric car chargers, i.e. 3kW, 22kW and 350kW. It’s the rate at which energy is passed from the charging point to your EV. It’s also used as a reference to the output of an electric motor, which makes things a little confusing.
  • Kilowatt-hours (kWh) is the total amount of energy stored in the battery. As a rule, the larger the battery, the further you can go on a single charge. However, it’s also worth remembering that it will take longer to achieve a full charge.

For the purposes of this brief overview, remember that kW is the rate at which your battery will recharge or the size of an electric motor, while kWh is the size of the battery. Got that?

Invest in a home charging point

A home charging point, commonly referred to as a wallbox, will charge your EV up to 10 times faster than a domestic plug socket. Without one, you could be waiting 12 hours for a full charge. It’s also safer, so buying a wallbox is a bit of a no-brainer.

There are tethered or universal options available, along with a choice of speeds, typically 3.6kW, 7kW or 22kW. A 3.6kW wallbox could cost as little as £450 after the government’s £350 grant and should deliver around 15 miles of range per hour. Some EVs are also available with a free wallbox, so look out for special offers.

Don’t worry if you haven’t got access to off-street parking. A company called Co Charger will help you find a neighbour who is willing to share theirs. All you need is a smartphone app. Alternatively, you could ask your employer to consider fitting charging points at work; the government’s Workplace Charging Scheme provides support.

Public charging explained

There are nearly 25,000 public charging devices in the UK, ranging from slow chargers to the latest ultra-rapid units. You’ll almost certainly need to use a public charger at some point, so take a look at the various options.

Don’t arrive at a charging location without doing some prior research. There are different connectors, many network providers, varying speeds and different tariffs available.

The majority of EVs can be charged using a Type 2 connector, but you’ll need to ensure that your car is compatible with the charging unit.

The Seat Mii Electric doesn't benefit from the same ultra-low insurance group as the regular petrol Seat Mii


This isn’t an exhaustive and comprehensive guide to buying an EV. Instead, it’s designed to put you at ease; an ICE-breaker, if you’ll excuse the obvious pun.

Buying an EV shouldn’t be any more taxing than buying a petrol or diesel car. In fact, manufacturers will go out of their way to encourage you to go green, so you can expect the VIP treatment when you wander into the showroom.

There’s never been a better time to buy an EV, so embrace the change.

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